Cathedral Rock Hike – Neika, Tasmania


Take the Huon Road from Hobart down to Neika. Drive through Neika and about 3km to the south you will come to a right hand turnoff onto Betts Road. Take this dirt road for about another 1.1km where you will come to a bridge. Park the car near the bridge and walk to the sign marking the start of the hike.

The Hike

1. The track starts out following North West Bay River along the western bank and takes you through some damp, green forest. Easy walking and very pretty! Although there is a trail, if the water level is low you can easily cut across into the river itself and rock-hop your way up, pausing at the numerous rock pools and mini waterfalls.

2. After walking for about 1km you will come to a point at which you can either turn left and join the Betts Hill Fire Trail, or you can continue up along the river bank (or up the river itself if you haven’t yet gotten sick of rock-hopping!). If you do decide to follow the river, keep an eye out for tape marking the point that you must leave the river and head west up the hill. This should be about 2.4km from the start of the walk. The track then steeply rises, following the fire trail up the side of Betts Hill in a series of switchbacks. As you ascend you will get glimpses of the very impressive Cathedral Rock to your right.

3. The track will level at as you reach the saddle between Betts Hill and Cathedral Rock. At this point there is a rock cairn marking the point at which you must diverge from the fire trail and take the much smaller track north. For the next 400m you ascend almost 200m. VERY steep and depending on the moisture levels can be slippery as well!! Take a lot of care climbing this section.

4. What a view!! From the top of Cathedral Rock you can look south towards Bruny Island, West towards the Huon Valley and North towards Montagu Thumbs and Mt Montagu. Exercise extreme caution at the top as it can be extremely windy and the drop is sheer! For a shorter walk you can return the way you came, but for the more adventurous you can continue north along the ridgeline towards Montagu Thumbs. The track resembles a saw tooth as you scramble up and down short but steep sections.

5. Approximately 1km from Cathedral Rock you will arrive at Montagu Thumbs, an interesting geological feature consisting of large, steep pillars of rock and soil jutting out of the ground around you. Take the track to the north, descending into a relatively flat section. The track will join up with the Montagu Fire Trail at which point you should turn right and follow the trail for another 1.2km until you come to a rock cairn marking the point at which the trail cuts east (and eventually south) to Wellington Falls (prior to getting to the cairn you can take the track west and climb Mt Montagu if you have the time).

6. At this point the track enters a area strewn with rocks and boulders, interspersed with scrubby trees. This results in the track becoming a lot less defined and more difficult to pick out. Keep an eye out for rock cairns marking waypoints along the track. The track descends down to North West Bay River and Wellington Falls.

7. Wellington Falls are a very welcome opportunity to take the shoes off, dangle the feet in the icy cold water streaming down from Mt Wellington and take a breather! In addition to the main waterfall there are also a series of smaller waterfalls and cascades up the river. Gorgeous spot! Take the extremely well formed track from Wellington Falls almost 2km down to the Pipeline Track.

8. Instead of following the Pipeline track back to Neika, cross the track and head down the ridgeline alongside the buried pipeline. The ridgeline is very long, steep and potentially dangerous in wet conditions due to the slippery leaves and soil on the track surface! After about 1km you will reach the bottom, at which point you will see a small path cutting across to Northwest Bay River.

9. At this point you can again choose to either cross over to the western bank and follow the track back to the car, or you can rock-hop down the river.

In summary?

Including photo stops and the odd moment of ‘geographical uncertainty’ this hike took me about 10 hours, however if you only stopped for rest breaks you could expect to finish this walk in around 7-8 hours.

A word of caution though, this walk is almost 15km in length and encompasses some of the steepest terrain you will ever come across! Only those with a good level of fitness should attempt the full loop. It takes a lot out of you, but the rewards found at the top of Cathedral Rock and amongst the rock pools near Wellington Falls make this a very worthwhile excursion!!